A new basketball era begins this weekend. And even if you care not for women’s hoops, it is worth a closer look.

Back to the future we go with the return of international windows as the shake-up of FIBA’s calendar becomes a reality with the opening round of qualification games for EuroBasket Women 2017.

And just how the various coaches and players handle the revised system will be watched with careful interest by many of those with no inside involvement.

The men, of course, are two years away from going down a similar path. 11-day spaces carved out – four times each year – from an already busy schedule for national team competitions.

Strict limits on preparation time. Swift turnarounds in instilling tactics and toughness before the meaningful action commences.

Warm-up friendlies? Not on this watch. And when it comes to choosing a squad, don’t expect the big leagues in the United States to play ball.

Hence Great Britain go into their opener with Montenegro in Podgorica without the services of Temi Fagbenle – marooned at University in Southern California (not an unattractive option in the UK’s monsoon season, to be fair) but a key cog who has been ruled out for at least the first four ties of this campaign.

A headache for new coach Jose Maria Buceta, but not one he can dwell on, even momentarily.

“It’s a massive loss to be missing Temi,” the returning Jo Leedham told

“We have to move on and while Temi’s not here, I have come in, so we go with what we have and we all need to punch above our weight and see what comes out of it.”

The dynamic has been entirely shifted, however. Countries at full strength, with a wealth of continuity, will profit most. Those asked to rebuild, or who rely on reclaiming natives back from across the Atlantic, will feel the pinch.

With only 15 places up for grabs in the Czech Republic in two summers time, the margin for error is miniscule. Fall early and you may fall behind for good.

How the bonding process might be accelerated will be a case for study, especially for those coaches with no recollection of when this system was last in place, two decades ago.

At times then, it was a case of picking 12 good men/women and true, showing up at the airport and hoping two shootarounds were enough to hit the target.

Basketball has moved on, even if the new trend has come from the past. The acid test may not come on the court, but in how many folk show up next Wednesday, to see Buceta’s team face Italy in Manchester.

But the verdict will take into account the quality of product offered and whether Saturday is a red letter day or a scheduling nightmare in the making.

Photo: BB/Mansoor Ahmed

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